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3.26  ·  Rating Details  ·  462 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
Versailles is the story of an expansive spirit locked in a pretty body and an impossible moment in history. As the novel begins, fourteen-year-old Marie Antoinette is traveling from Austria to France to meet her fiancé, the mild, abstracted Louis. He will become the sixteenth Louis to reign in France, and Antoinette will be his queen, hemmed in by towering hairdos, the xen ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published August 20th 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2002)
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I billed this book to my mom as a historical novel about Marie Antoinette, but not a stupid one. What I mean is that it's not fluffy, and it's not a bodice-ripper thinly disguised as something with redeeming value. Instead it's a meditation upon the life of Marie Antoinette, narrated by her ghost (spirit, shade, soul, whatever you want to call it. It's her speaking from beyond the grave, knowing how her life ends, not narrating events as they happen.)

The prose is lyrical and soothing to read. I
This stream-of-consciousness novel, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, simply didn't work for me. I suspect the reason for this is that my knowledge of Marie Antoinette and her lineage and the French royal family she married into is quite limited, so I simply didn't understand many of the author's references.

Thanks to my numerous visits to Versailles throughout the years, however, I'm happy to report that the intricacies of the palace itself that Davis writes about made sense, although i
Aug 27, 2015 Kaleigh rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wish I could have enjoyed Versailles more, but to say I waded through it would be an understatement. I'm thankful it was a relatively short book.

The writing style was the strangest I've ever read. It went back and forth among first person, third person limited, little script things for a play, and prose poetry. It was annoying. I feel like there was no plot. It was just... kinda pointless.

I do have a pretty good amount of knowledge on Marie Antoinette, but I still learned a few things
Jan 04, 2016 Cindy rated it it was ok
Shelves: swapped
I'm really torn between 2 and 3 stars. I went with 2 because if I hadn't already read some biographies about Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution I would have been lost with this novel. It is written in a few different styles. First person, third person and some chapters are written as a play. It jumped forward in time without much explanation and I thought didn't give you much time to dwell on what was happening. It also didn't give me a clear picture of who Marie Antoinette was and what ...more
I think I'm going to use interesting in a way that means I didn't really like it. It meandered through the story of Marie Antoinette, jumping over vast swathes of time to drop you somewhere new, expecting you to know what was going on and why this was happening.
A curious re-imagined story but ultimately not for me.
Jul 10, 2015 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, historical
[from a 2006 blog post:] If you, like I, went to see Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, and then became, shall we say, a wee bit obsessed, I can recommend both Versailles by Kathryn Davis and Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund. Very different in construct, plot, style, yet both capture the mood just perfectly.

Versailles is short and choppy and a jumble of styles (prose, drama, dialogue), with an obsession with numbers and counting. Abundance is long and flowing and first-person narrative. Both were,
Jun 26, 2007 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Versailles is a beautiful slim novel narrated by Marie Antoinette's spirit, ghost, disembodied being. Don't be confused and think this is a book version of the movie or Vogue fluff about her that's been going around--this is a mesmerizing exploration of what it was like to be in her head. If you've never read anything by Kathryn Davis, you've missed out on one of the best contemporary writers--she uses language in a very and creative compelling way.
Dec 01, 2009 Kristy rated it it was ok
Meh. This felt like an experiment rather than a book. It reimagines the story of Marie Antoinette and doesn't do much new with it. There is a lot of formal experimentation like shifting of perspectives, embedded one-act plays, etc., but it doesn't add anything factual or emotional to a historical episode that is already very well-trodden ground.
Aug 11, 2011 Amanda rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Really not my kind of book. Even though I love historical fiction and Marie Antoinette is one of my favourites.......this was just a bit too airy fairy for me. A short read....and this is probably the only reason I finished it.
Sep 15, 2009 Erendira rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm intrigued by the story of Marie Antoinette but I found the style of writing too distracting for the storyline. Perhaps I should just look into her biography...?
Katy M
May 03, 2014 Katy M rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'd put this somewhere between a 2 and a 3. It was fast-paced and fairly interesting, but I didn't really like the switching from Antoinette's diary to play-like format. I found it odd.

Then, I noticed that when Louis XV died and she became queen they were in mourning and she says she always has to wear black. After they beheaded Louis XVI she is given black to wear and she's mad about that because queens wear white in mourning. ???

So, anyway, it was just a quick read, but it was very superficia
I'm wavering between giving this one a 3 and a 4 star rating, for me this book falls pretty squarely in the 3.5 range. It's a short novel, only 200 pages, and very unlike any other historical novel I've ever read both in terms of execution and the voice lent to Marie Antoinette. I think it would definitely help if you are already familiar with the story/biography/legend/mythology surrounding Marie Antoinette before you read this book, as it certainly isn't going to provide you with much beyond w ...more
Sep 02, 2011 Anna added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
I read half of this. I don't get it. I quit.
Dec 20, 2013 Lacygnette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. A fascinating take on a well known woman.

I'm going against the tide here...but the novel got me inside Marie's mind, her youth, her silliness, the awesome task of being a queen when paired with a teenaged king who was just as unprepared to rule as she was. I loved the sense of Versailles (full disclosure, I have been there) as the container for her life. It defines her world, its size, its gardens.

I also loved the little playlettes which scene descriptions and dialogue. It emp
Apr 02, 2015 Selkie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was written in a lyrical style that I do not usually care for, but I can understand why the author chose to use it. It did seem to capture the personality [of Marie Antoinette], & as much as Marie Antoinette loved the theatre it is only fitting that some chapters were written as skits/plays.
The last chapter "Hall of Mirrors" could have been eliminated in my opinion. But overall it was a good book, & a quick read
May 03, 2012 jenn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, fiftyfiftyme
1. Writing style. Prose-poetic. Not my thing. If this kind of writing annoys you, stay away.

2. Lots of allusions to the physical world of Versailles, but few real descriptions. Basically, if you haven't been there, there's a chance you'll have NO IDEA what she's talking about. Which is too bad, because the palace is such a perfect symbol of royal excess.

3. I probably would have given this 3 stars, because I admire things about the book that I don't necessarily like, but then I made the mistake
Feb 24, 2015 Theresia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: f-english
It starts out weird and getting weirder and weirder. You can take back your whiny Maria Antonia and give me my money back, alright.
Some factual details are very unclear without having historical knowledge of the events surrounding Marie Antoinette's life
Rose Anderson
Another re-telling of Marie Antoinette's story. She is portrayed as a pawn of fate. Very sad.
Sep 10, 2008 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookcrossed
It was hard not to keep thinking to Sophia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette" as I read this book, but I think there was enough of a difference to keep me interested. There are some chapters that are filled with verse, others look like a script.
I liked meeting the character of Antonia, and I think there was a vulnerability that the author captured that made this novel even more interesting.
The end of the novel was also something that stuck with me, and I will definitely not forget it soon.
Passing onto
Rambling Reader
The book is actually 204 pages long, not 240.


I want to read more of Kathyrn Davis.
Sep 10, 2013 Maryanne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I chose to read this book because I wanted to know more about Marie Antoinette other than her famous comment... 'Let them eat cake!"

The writer's style is quite unique. She uses a series of sketches, as if reading a play, to depict the life of this Royal. I would recommend this book for someone who already knows a lot about her.

I didn't gain much knowledge, unfortunately, but reading it did at least motivate me to find another biography about her.
Mar 18, 2016 Craig rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
"My soul is going on a trip."

Fascinating structure -- again, no one story is THE story, but ALL the stories intersect, overlap, truncate to make a larger meaning. Davis is just so, so smart.

But this one is a bit of a slog towards the end. I imagine if I had a better sense of the history of Marie Antoinette, this one wouldn't have seemed so elusive to me. Overall, still good, but in the Davis pantheon, not the strongest, imho.
Jun 23, 2008 Mandi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not rating this book because I read it a long time ago and I can't remember how much I liked it. I do remember, though, that I bought it because I have a picture of the picture on the front cover. Like, I was standing in that room in Versailles and I took a picture. Of course, the back of Ian's head's in my picture, but it's still the same room. Anyway, I couldn't resist buying it. I do remember that it was a really fast read.
Jo Ann Hall
Oct 24, 2011 Jo Ann Hall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The lovely prose has made me a fan of Ms. Davis. I read this on the heels of Wolf Hall and the books remind me of one another in a wonderful way. With both books, upon completing the last page, I felt as though I was emerging from a sort of dream-state I'd occupied over a course of days. The unique forms of narrator and narration contribute to this feeling of existing inside a book rather than simply reading.
Jun 06, 2010 Sharonm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very unique book, written in a mix between narrative and little playlets. It's about Marie Antoinette's life, and it digs deeply into her as a person at the same time that it seems to skim the surface. As I was reading it, I didn't always understand what was going on at each moment, but the overall sense of what was happening was very strong. The whole was much more than the sum of the parts.
This book really put me inside the head of Marie-Antoinette. Once again, false rumors plagued her royal existence and led to her eventual doom. Although she did not portray only saintly behavior, she was partially a victim of her circumstance. Davis' descriptions of the palace at Versailles, with all its overabundance and extravagance, added significantly to the overall feeling of the story.
Marika Alexander
This is an entertaining little book that is very musical and creative in style. Sometimes it's written in 1st person from Marie Antoinette's perspective, other times it's a short play with some of the principal characters. And other times it's written from a third person perspective. I loved the unusual writing style and found this to be a charming little read!
Feb 12, 2015 Chrissy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If I didn't know a lot about Marie Antoinette's life and the French Revolution, this book would have made absolutely no sense. In fact, I DO know a lot about Marie Antoinette's life and the French Revolution, and it STILL didn't make much sense. Too artsy fartsy for my taste. I only gave it 2 stars because the last 2 chapters were fairly interesting.
Jun 03, 2010 Elaine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A historical novel from Marie Antoinette's perspective.

While I enjoyed this book, I didn’t particularly like the way the author wrote some chapters as if they were performed by actors on a stage (you know like “Marie Antoinette exits stage left”). Occasionally found the book confusing but enjoyed being in Versailles.
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Kathryn Davis is an award-winning American novelist.

Davis has taught at Skidmore College, and is now senior fiction writer in the Writing Program in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

She is a recipient of the Kafka Prize, the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1999, a 2000 Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lannan Literary Award for Fiction
More about Kathryn Davis...

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